NOTE: Originally published in November 2012.
An organization or team is only as good as its foundation, and this past summer Aaron Peirsol was “caught in the act” of strengthening the base by mentoring younger swimmers.
Peirsol was the national team rep for the Junior Pan Pac Team. The three-time Olympian, gold medalist and world record holder considered Jr. Pan Pac’s the best trip of the summer, even better than the Olympics. Why? The opportunity to interact with up-and-coming junior swimmers and to mentor them to step into the big fins of swimmers who will retire during this Quad. “Our Olympic team had a mix of young and old, but many of our athletes are older and may not stay until 2016. This team needs to be ready to step in, deal with the pressure and perform,” Aaron commented.
Give them energy and confidence. Get them ready to step in and perform. This mentoring theme can easily be applied to the officials’ side. Aaron could have spent that week doing many things, but he didn’t. He chose to invest in the next generation of elite athletes and Olympic hopefuls. He swam, laughed, ate, talked and coached with them, building a team, and passing on his passion.
We mentor to give back. We mentor to pay forward to a sport that has been good to us. We need younger officials in our ranks, learning our craft, gaining experience, preparing to take our place on pool decks. We take them under our wing, and teach them the fine points of officiating to give them energy and confidence. We should be happy the “youngsters” are coming up behind us, rather than fearing that they will displace us. The frequent looks of pride and celebration on Aaron’s face as Team USA performed over and over said that it’s all good, and maybe even better.